In Batelli v. Village of Addison, a pedestrian was injured after tripping on a clearly visible raised sidewalk square while walking along a publicly maintained sidewalk. The pedestrian sued the municipality, alleging the municipality’s negligent failure to properly maintain its public sidewalks breached its duty of care owed to her as a pedestrian using publicly maintained walkways. The trial court ruled in favor of the municipality, finding that the municipality did not owe her a duty of care because the raised sidewalk was an “open and obvious danger.”

The appellate court agreed, finding that the danger presented by the clearly visible raised sidewalk square was such an open and obvious danger that a reasonably prudent pedestrian could have recognized and avoided the risk it created, and the municipality owed no duty to the pedestrian independent of the open and obvious danger exception. After weighing the burdens local governments would face from identifying and curing obvious sidewalk defects against the potential safety benefits for pedestrians, the court further concluded that the potential safety benefits for pedestrians were minor and the burdens faced by local governments would be immense forcing disproportionate costs on the municipality. In support of that conclusion, the court emphasized the inability of local governments to prevent natural forces from causing minor damages to sidewalks and that it would be impracticable to force local governments to zealously guard against “injuries from open and obvious sidewalk defects.”

Post Authored by Tyler Smith & Eugene Bolotnikov